Sports are supposed to be fun. Right? That’s how they started out. Back when your child was in preschool or kindergarten those pint-sized athletic teams were all about getting some physical activity and having a good time. No one kept score, from the sidelines no one was screaming, “How could you miss that shot?” and no one was competing to be the best in the state. As your child grew and began getting more serious about sports, they wanted to transition into truly competitive play. How can you help your child make the move from “just for fun” to a more competitive-based type of play?
Time Commitment and Being Selective
It’s common for young children to try out different sports. Your child may have played soccer, softball, tennis, and basketball. And, that was just in one year. When it comes to moving from recreational to competitive play, your child needs to narrow down their focus. Yes, some kids do excel at a few sports. It’s not unheard of for a teen to play for the high school football team in the fall and then hit the wrestling mats in the winter. But, narrowing down the selection certainly makes it easier to focus.
When it comes to selecting a sport, your child needs to be aware of the time commitment. If they narrow down their focus to soccer and track, they might not have the time to pull double-duty during the same sporting season. Discuss which sport your child really wants to focus on and why. After that, take a look at the time commitment and make sure that there are no major conflicts. If there are considerable conflicts, take a look at what your child can shift around or juggle. In the event that nothing budges, ask your child to consider picking just one sport to really, truly focus on.
Focusing on competitive play often leaves little time for school work. Of course your child is still going to school during the day. But, they may not have as much time for after-school homework and they may also need to miss some school days (or partial days) for games, matches, tournaments and meets.
Help your child to create a steady schedule that incorporates both school work and practice times. Put a pen to paper (or go on your computer and create a spreadsheet) and write out the details. This should include blocks of practice/training time, study times, and game times. The rigor and regimen of athletic training translates into study time for many student-athletes. That means sports and school can work hand in hand to help keep your child on track and on schedule.
It’s possible that your child will be so excited to start real competitive play that they put schoolwork on the back burner. It’s understandable that the new, more in-depth, athletic endeavor is exciting. For your child, it’s much more interesting than algebra and English literature. But, you need to explain that school can’t slide. Set rules, making it clear that if the sport negatively affects your child’s grades, they’ll need to take a break.
Back when sports were purely recreational your child could miss a practice (or a game) and it wasn’t really a big deal. Now that they’re on the travel team, made the school JV/Varsity squad or are on some other competitive team, things are different.
Participating in competitive sports (whether it’s as an individual or as part of a team) requires dedication, time, and commitment. Skipping out on practice to hang out with friends is not okay. Sit your child down and discuss what the team’s, coach’s or league’s rules are. For example, your child’s basketball coach has a rule that any participant who misses three practices (unless they’re pre-excused) is automatically out. Your athlete needs to understand that the coach means business and that they will enforce this rule.
Taking the next step to competitive play is a big deal. It shows that your child is focused and committed to the sport. The transition from a recreational sport to something more serious isn’t always easy. Even though it takes work, with your help and a little time, your child will succeed!